There are more than 125 known coffee species in the world, although only two are commercially viable: Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora. In the Arabica species, there are thousands of varieties, each differing from appearance, growth and taste.
Among the variables that affect the taste and quality of your daily cup, the botanical lineage and the genetic heritage of the coffee tree play a very important role. In addition to the coffee's pedigree, elements such as terroir, picking, processing, roasting and brewing will have a considerable influence on its taste.
Typica, Gesha, Bourbon, Caturra; you may have seen these names on coffee bags or menus, but most baristas and roasters do not explain them unless you ask them, so we understand that sometimes it can be confusing! We will therefore explain the most common varieties for you:
Derivative: derived from Yemeni Cultivar transplanted from Ethiopia
Place of origin: Java by Yemen
Typica is considered the original variety from which all other varieties have been mutated or genetically selected. The Dutch were the first to spread coffee around the world for commercial production and Typica is the variety they brought with them. This coffee is able to produce a cup of excellent quality, but produce a relatively low yield compared to other varieties.
Derivation: linked to the Typica
Place of origin: Bourbon Island, Reunion
Bourbon is a natural mutation of Typica that occurred on the island of Reunion (called at the time Bourbon). The yield is higher than Typica's, and many specialists in the coffee industry believe it has a distinctive sweetness, making it popular on the market. The color of the fruit also has various variations: red, yellow, even orange.
Place of Origin: Brazil
Caturra is a mutation of Bourbon, discovered in Brazil in 1937. Its yields are relatively high, although the tree produces more fruits than it can support and dies quickly; good farm management can still help avoid this situation. This variety has been particularly popular in Colombia and Central America, though it is still commonly used in Brazil. It is a slow-growing variety, often called "dwarf" because the small tree is small and the beans are easy to pick by hand.
Derivation: Mundo Novo x Caturra
Place of Origin: Brazil
Catuai is a hybrid between Caturra and Mundo Novo created by the Instituto Agronomico do Campinas in Brazil in the 1950s and 1960s. It was chosen because it combined the dwarf characteristics of Caturra with the performance and strength of the Mundo Novo. This variety has a particularly high yield for an Arabica, which is most likely from the robusta of its lineage. Indeed, coffee beans from Robusta contain twice as much caffeine as Arabica. Concentrated caffeine acts as a natural pesticide, helping to protect it from most insects, making it much easier to maintain.
Catuai may have a bitter taste, however, once well grown and processed, it produces an excellent cup of coffee.
Derivation: Ethiopian Landrace
Place of origin: Ethiopia; Tanzania
Gesha is a town in western Ethiopia and, although the variety was imported to Panama, it is believed to be of Ethiopian origin. This coffee produces an exceptionally aromatic and floral coffee: it has a distinctive tea profile with jasmine aroma and a hint of orange blossom, bergamot and flowers. The Panamanian Gesha has become one of the most famous coffee in the industry. With most of the coffee championship finalists using it and a recent price of 601 USD / lb, it has become a coffee of excellence and exclusivity.
It has gained notoriety and spectacular popularity since 2004, when a Panamanian farm, Hacienda La Esmeralda, competed with Geisha. The coffee proved so unusual that it attracted an incredibly high bid of $ 21 / lb at auction. This record was broken in 2006 and 2007, reaching $ 130 / lb, nearly a hundred times more than a basic coffee. This has since encouraged many producers in Central and South America to grow this variety.